Remember when binge watching meant whizzing through a single disc from a DVD box set of The Wire in one sitting? That’s how many of us watched the revered HBO drama. One disc at a time - until, over a period of a few months, you’d caught up on all five seasons. Back then – around 2009/2010 – it felt like you were racing through the show. Now, that pace of viewing seems positively glacial.
There’s too much pressure
Thanks to streaming service Netflix, who started the trend of releasing entire seasons of series like House Of Cards and Daredevil at once, binge watching has taken on a whole new meaning. It now feels like there’s immense pressure to watch those blocks of 13 episodes as soon after the release date as possible.
Pressure to get to the finale before someone who watched the entire season in one go tweets about the twist at the end. Pressure from the knowledge that you have unwatched episodes just sitting there, tempting you to stay up later than is reasonable on a school night to watch one more. Mostly, though, it’s just the pressure to binge because that’s what we do now, right?
If you’d asked me how I was enjoying the third season of Orange Is the New Black earlier this year, I’d have been less likely to reply, “I really like how they’re spending time developing some of the second-string characters,” and more likely to snap, “I’m only up to episode seven.”
For the record, I got through that season in about a week – and as the days wore on, I felt more anxious about the episodes still left to watch, certain my enjoyment would be ruined by finding out something I didn’t want to know.
Spoilers are everywhere
Which begs the question: in the age of binge watching, when is a spoiler a spoiler? My opinion is that once something has gone to air, plot details are no longer spoilers. If you haven’t caught the episode in question and don’t care to know who got killed in the latest Game of Thrones, stay off the internet until you’ve seen it.
But, when 13 episodes are released simultaneously, surely people need to be given a sufficient period of time to consume them. Don’t ask me how long that spoiler-free period should be. My answer would probably depend on how long it was taking me to watch the show in question (I’m still only halfway through iRobot and live in fear of learning what episode 9’s big reveal is).
The wait between seasons is too long
The downside to binging on a series like Orange Is the New Black is that it’s then a long wait until the next season is released. Instead of there being nine months between the season three finale and the arrival of season four, there’s going to be a gap of 51 weeks. When next June arrives, who will be able to recall where we left Piper (Taylor Schilling) and the rest of the Litchfield inmates?
Bingeing only begets more bingeing
It’s not just new-release series that cause first-world stress and panic. With whole catalogues of dramas and comedies at our fingertips, there’s no excuse not to have seen Parks and Recreation. Or Friday Night Lights. Or the original Scandinavian version of The Bridge. (Really, there’s not – they’re all excellent).
TV has become a Medusa-like beast. The more you watch, the more there is to watch. And the more you cram in because you can, the less time you take to appreciate a show’s subtleties.
Of course, there’s no going back to the quaint old days of the DVD box set now and while it’d be good to be able to binge responsibly, I don’t see that happening any time soon. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have 62 episodes of Breaking Bad that aren’t going to watch themselves.
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